Harry sank into the sand, he took a handful of cold damp grain and let it run like dust through his fingers. The rhythmic pounding of the ocean waves drummed into his ears, the gusts of costal wind lifting his messy hair and floating it across his reddened eyes. He flicked them from the light blue of the ocean to the makeshift gravestone before him.
"Here lies Dobby. A free elf"
"I'm so sorry Dobby." He whispered to himself quietly. He hoped the tide would take his words out to sea, take them somewhere that would reach his friend's ears. "It's all my fault." He balled his fists, squeezing them tightly, feeling the pain of his fingernails biting into his skin. He wanted to push deeper, deeper than the blade Bellatrix Lestrange had plunged into Dobby's chest. To feel what he felt, to share his pain.
"Then make it right."
The voice was soft and familiar. He turned to find Luna Lovegood trudging up the nearest sand dune. Her long locks of blonde hair flying behind her, cheeks flushing red from the wind. She wrapped her long blue cardigan around her as she walked.
"Luna." He smiled as she approached him. Something about her presence comforted him, be it her calm resolve or just the fact he never had to pretend when she was around. He felt no need to dry his eyes or hide the fact he was hurting, she wouldn't judge.
She stood next to him looking down at Dobby's grave. She wiped her eyes briefly, taking a deep concentrated breath before sitting next to him.
"Make it right?" He asked her, keeping his eyes fixed on the tiny headstone.
"Harry I'm not going to sit here and tell you it isn't your fault. You know it's not. But because you are who you are you're always going to blame yourself. So I say just make it right. Use it to push you forward, fuel your fire so to speak." She grinned at him.
He felt her shoulder touch his, memories of their brief moment of intimacy by the Black Lake came flooding back to him. Neither had uttered a word about their kiss to each other since that day though Harry had often thought about it.
Luna herself had never shown any hint that she held any regrets for not taking things further. Indeed the very next day she had greeted him at breakfast in the Great Hall as if nothing had happened. He wondered if this was truly the case though.
Even after he and Ginny had finally got together he detected no sign of change in her attitude or mindset apart from one moment during Bill and Fleur's wedding. He had been dancing with Ginny alone when he had caught sight of Luna, she was sitting next to Ron and Hermione who were in the middle of a conversation. Luna herself had not been involved. She just sat there in her bright yellow dress with her legs crossed leaning on the table, her head resting absentmindedly on her hand.
The warm gleam from an enchanted orb of light that hung over their table bathed her in a golden light, making her hair sparkle. She was looking right at Harry, not past him or next to him but locking her eyes with his. He didn't think she even realised she was doing it but it didn't stop him from keeping her gaze, ignoring the surge of guilt he felt punch at his stomach as he felt Ginny's hand run across his back.
She smiled lazily at him, her eyes heavy lidded no doubt from the late hour and many beverages. A cold wave of shame washed over him as he realised how much he wanted to be sat next to her at that moment, whispering in her ear, kissing her neck.
He pushed the thought from his mind and turned to face the opposite side of the marquee. He could feel Ginny's breath on his neck and wanted to back away. He needed to be somewhere else, away from the wedding, away from Ginny, away from Luna. When he turned again Luna had left the table and was walking away from them towards her father who was deep in conversation with an elderly witch stood next to the wedding cake. The only person looking at him now was Hermione who had her eyes narrowed in his direction, a frown on her face. She looked over towards Luna then back at Harry.
And still they danced on.
Now as they sat together on the windswept beach something inside Harry was screaming, something he thought he'd long learned to ignore. He looked at Luna as she monitored the horizon.
He felt lost, at the end of his tether. His friends were dying, for him and still had no idea how he was going to successfully sneak into Gringotts and yet he felt for the first time in a very long while sitting here next to Luna that something was right.
"I want to make it right Luna... I just hope I'm able to." They sat for a while looking out to sea, watching the waves crash onto the shore below them. Then he felt the warm touch of her head on his shoulder, the soft cushion of her hair, the smell of her scent dancing across his nostrils.
"You will." She said finally.
"How do you know?" He asked, smiling at the confident tone of her voice.
"Because you've never let me down before." She turned her face towards him and he looked down at her. Her lips were so close, all he need do was lean forward slightly and he'd be back by the lake again, in her embrace, feeling her mouth on his.
"No." He thought to himself, turning his face away from her. He couldn't do this, not now, not after Ginny. His grief was urging him to hold onto the things he could lose but now was not the time to be complicating matters, not when there was so much he had left to do.
But... who knew how long it would be till he saw Luna again? Days? Months? Years even? Would he ever? Feelings he had kept suppressed we're bubbling back to the surface.
"Luna do you ever think we could have..."
"Thank you Harry." Luna cut in, nudging his shoulder with hers. "For saving us at Malfoy's."
"I didn't do anything. It was all Dobby..." he trailed off, saying his name was striking a tender nerve at the moment.
"Dobby too of course. Thank you sir." She smiled and bowed her head towards his grave. "But no one ever really thanks you for anything do they? I supposed it's just expected of you being Harry Potter. So thanks."
He nodded at her with a smile.
"Was it awful at Malfoy's? Did they do anything..." he trailed off again not really knowing what to say.
"It was unpleasant." She replied simply. "They wanted to know if I knew where you'd been hiding for the past few months. The witch they kept calling Bellatrix, she was awful. I think she may have been born under the gaze of a Three Headed Bloodbug Toad, it's been said it can lead to evil intentions being imprinted on the child in later life. Simple to dispel the curse of course, just requires that the baby be swaddled in the flayed skin of a female Poppakin, then turned to face east and burped three times it..."
Harry trying his hardest not to burst out laughing, colour coming back to his cheeks as he chuckled. "Sorry Luna, really I am."
Luna frowned but grinned and shook her head. "It's true Harry. It's this sort of reaction that lets dormant evil doers slip by unnoticed until it's too late."
He smiled broadly and felt the ball of worry weighing heavy in his stomach lift slightly. "I've missed you." He said absentmindedly.
She nodded silently keeping her eyes trained of the rolling waves. "How's Ginny?" She asked finally fixing herself a smile which looked slightly off.
"I... erm... she's fine." He replied caught off guard by the question.
"I haven't seen her in months, I hope she's ok." Luna rested her head on her knees tucking them beneath her chin.
"Neither have I."
"You don't even write?"
"I don't really know what I'd say. Can't be specific about anything just in case our letters were intercepted."
"You could just talk about random stuff. Doesn't have to be about Dark Lords and secret missions all the time you know? Oh Ginny I saw "he-who-must-not-be-named" in the Leaky Cauldron last week blah blah blah blah." She smirked at him.
Again Harry burst into laughter again. Only now had he realised it had been nearly eight whole months since he'd last seen Luna at Bill and Fleur's wedding. Though little had really changed about Luna she did seem slightly different, still as serene as ever but maybe just a little more self aware, more mature.
"So what will you do now?" He asked her. "Will you go back to Hogwarts?"
She pondered this a moment before answering. "Bill said I'm welcome to stay here, might be a good idea. If I go back to Hogwarts they'll only try and nab me again won't they?"
For a brief moment Harry wondered whether Luna would be up for a trip to Gringotts then realising how insane the idea was remained quiet. Truth was he just didn't like the thought of having to part the next morning not knowing if he'd ever see her again. It felt as if Luna was the last piece of his normal school life, as if he'd been given a second chance to linger in a past he thought he'd said goodbye to when he left the wedding in August.
"What's that?" Harry asked noting the large dark purple bruise that marked her forearm, peeking out of the sleeve of her cardigan.
Luna rolled up her sleeve showing the full extent of her injury, it looked painful and was larger than he had expected. "Oh this is just from Bellatrix. As I said before they were really keen to find out where you've been over the past few months." She touched the bruise. "Horrible person that woman."
Harry felt sick to his stomach. He studied the mark and moved on to the cuts and scrapes on her face. The thought that Luna had suffered through all this pain just because she had been friends with him made him feel equal parts angry and grateful. She wasn't even going to mention the injury. She had stayed strong for so long and hadn't complained once.
He took her arm gently and softly ran his fingers along the tarnished surface of her skin.
"I'm sorry Luna."
"Harry it's ok."
"Let me make it right." He lifted her arm and placed his lips upon the bruise, kissing it softly.
"Harry..." Luna lost the words on the way to her mouth and instead remained silent. She lifted her hand to his face and ran her fingers over his brow, up into his hair. He leaned forward, placing his hand on her knee and going to kiss her lips but she quickly placed her hand onto his chest and held him back. "Harry we can't do this again."
"Why not." He asked, he was so close he could smell the fresh scent of lavender in her hair. He placed his hand on her face, her cheek was cold from the breeze. He moved his head towards her neck letting his lips rest upon the chilled skin.
Luna held her breath, her fingers grasping the back of his head. Then her eyes snapped open and she moved away, scrambling to her feet.
"Luna?" Harry got up and went to place his hand on her shoulder but she took another step away from him.
"Harry please. This is hardly the time or place." She pointed out motioning to Dobby's graveside.
"This is exactly the right time." Harry argued. "I leave tomorrow. Who knows when I'll see you again... if I..."
Luna quickly rushed up to him and placed her fingers on his lips. "When Harry, not if. When." She smiled and placed her forehead on his. "I'm sorry Harry. If things had been different then... but I can't do this, I can't just do what I want."
"Why?" He asked again, every part of him longing to feel her touch.
"Ginny." She replied simply, it was enough to fill Harry's heart with a heavy sense of shame. "She's my friend, one of the few who have stood by me and never... I can't..."
"Ok." Harry cut in. He saw the pain and hint of tears in Luna's grey eyes and hated himself. He knew how much Luna cared about Ginny, knew how much she valued her friendship yet here he was selfishly putting his desires above hers. The fear of the unknown future had made him momentarily reckless, the panic had overcome the calm and he couldn't stand seeing her tormented like this any longer.
"Luna it's ok." He let go of her and took a step back. As his hand slipped from hers he felt her grip his fingers as they parted. "But if you ever fancy another walk down by the lake you just let me know, ok?" He forced a grin at her and she let out a laugh. She wiped her tear filled eyes and smiled at him.
Then he turned slowly, looking towards the cottage. "Come on. Let's see if they need any help preparing dinner."
She nodded and followed him back towards the house.
The last night spent at Shell Cottage was a busy one. Harry, Ron and Hermione spent hours finalising their plan to break into Gringotts along with the help of Griphook. He only saw Luna at Dinner that evening and just before everyone had retired to bed. They shared the occasional long glance at each other but had little chance to speak.
Harry sat with Ron in the tiny spare room Harry was sleeping in busy putting the finishing touches to Ron's disguise for tomorrow morning.
Ron yawned loudly, sitting on the window sill overlooking the vast ocean.
"Nervous?" Harry asked as he put down the black snatcher robes with a long sigh.
"Nah. After the hollering Hermione gave me when I came back, this is nothing."
They both grinned at each other. Then after a moments silence Ron's tone became more serious.
"She will forgive me won't she?" He asked in a hopeful voice.
Harry was tempted to tease Ron further on this but noting the pleading look on his friend's face he nodded. "Of course she will. It's you after all. Hermione would forgive you for anything."
Ron pondered this for a long time as he studied the light rain pattering on the window. "I really don't want to muck it up this time Harry. I want her to see me as someone she can rely on. I mean after we've defeated you-know-who... which we will." He added determinedly. "Hermione will be free to you know... move on, she'll get a job and so will I and we're bound to see less of each other..." he ran a hand through his hair looking fretful. "All the time I've wasted being a complete and utter berk, not being clear when I should have. Playing games..."
"Ron." Harry interjected giving him a hard stare. "Just tell her mate. Don't wait till it's too late."
"I know but it's not like with you and Ginny, it's obvious you two are meant for each other."
Harry felt a wave of nervous heat around his neck. "Y-yeah... I guess so."
"I mean even if she doesn't feel the same, we'll still see each other at Christmas and every birthday so that's something. Then there's Halloween and... Sir Nick's Death Day? What other holidays are there?"
"Ron so far this year you've infiltrated the Ministry, taken on a Horcrux with a sword, been chased by Snatchers and escaped certain death at Malfoy Manor... do yourself a favour, man up and just give Hermione a snog."
"Shhh." Ron hissed, "she might hear you."
"Lets hope so. She's just as guilty. Hermione!" He called out. "Can you please come here this instant and kiss Ron. Give him a big old smacker!" Harry chuckled as Ron chased him round the room slinging pillows at him.
"I left being hunted by Snatchers for this!" Ron yelled before they both burst out laughing.
"If you keep this up I'll march right over there now and give her the kissing of her life." Ron announced walking towards the door.
Ron shrugged and grinned. "I'll probably just go to bed instead. Night Harry."
"See you tomorrow."
Ron left leaving Harry to the silence of the room. He felt much better and pulled off his shirt, taking the spare pyjamas Bill had left him on the nightstand.
A knock came at the door and Harry rolled his eyes. "Ron if you really did it you don't have to rush back to tell me." He joked taking the handle and opening the door to find not Ron but Luna standing there.
She was dressed in a pair of Fleur's pyjamas, the sleeves where too long and rolled up and the trousers bunched around at her feet. She had her damp hair tied up on top of her head like a pineapple and smelled like she'd just step out of the bath.
"Luna?" Harry smiled and opened the door wider. "You alright?"
She said nothing, her eyes flitted from his face to his chest and back again. Having only just realised he was shirtless he quickly pulled it on and grinned. "I know what you're thinking... "wow"."
She laughed and shook her head. "No. I was just wondering where the Hippogriff was."
"Oh I got rid of that ages ago." He replied.
"That a shame. I've always fancied getting a huge Werewolf done myself, on my back."
"You are joking?" He asked looking unsure.
"Well it's a thought but they'd probably chuck me out of Hogwarts." She explained. "My grandfather had a Leprechaun on his arm. It would tell rude jokes and wake him up at midnight singing "Oh Danny Boy.""
Harry just stared at her, a grin plastered on his face and a puzzled look in his eye.
"Can I talk to you?" She asked finally, her tone becoming more serious.
"Come in." He walked back into the room leaving the door open for her. She surveyed the room briefly before stepping past the door, closing it quietly behind her.
Harry sat at the window Ron had just occupied. He leaned back and let his eyes follow her. She sat on the edge of his bed, placing her hands under her legs. The moon was shining brightly through the glass behind him and illuminated her face in a soft glow. She looked angelic with her blonde hair and silvery grey eyes, the effect left him momentarily frozen as he struggled to look elsewhere.
"Harry I've just got the reply from the letter I wrote to my father..." she trailed off, her expression fretful. She didn't meet his gaze and focused on the sky outside.
Harry only now realised he hadn't fully explained to Luna how he had ended up at Malfoy Manor in the first place and the roll her father had played.
"Harry I'm so sorry. Daddy explained everything in his letter. He feels terrible." She looked straight at him, her expression full of remorse.
"Luna it's ok."
"No it's not ok. It's really not Harry. Here's my dad saying you've got his full support one minute and the next he's trapping you in our house and planing to hand you over to Death Eaters the next." She couldn't stop the frustration from leaking into her voice.
"Luna they'd kidnapped you. His only daughter."
"Harry if you don't win this fight then it really doesn't matter if I'm at home or not. Soon there will be no home to return to. The Death Eaters will burn it to the ground, probably with both of us in it." Luna was getting angry, something Harry had never really witnessed before. "So my father handing you over just to get me back isn't going to help anyone but himself. It was stupid and selfish."
Harry remained silent. He wanted to tell her it was ok, that he didn't hold any ill will towards her father, that he understood his actions but Luna would not have heard. Her father had let her down, there had been no one higher in her eyes, it had been just the two of them for so long and here he was not standing up for her friends when she needed him to.
He understood the disappointment, he had experienced a similar feeling with Dumbledore but he'd had time to accept it and move on, this was fresh for her and knew it would eat her up for a while to come.
She had so much faith in Harry, it was unwavering and it was what he needed. Her confidence that he could do this gave him strength and now she needed to feel that he had understood her.
"It's scary isn't it? But you won't lose him Luna. I'll do everything I can to end this. I won't stop."
"But what if I do? I'm surprised they let him live after you escaped. I can't lose him too Harry, I'll be alone." Luna's voice was unsteady and her slender shoulder shook.
"You won't be alone Luna. You'll never be alone. I'm here." He moved across the floor and sunk to his knees in front of her. "I'll always be here."
"I always thought mum would be too." She replied in a low tone, a bitter edge to her words.
"Luna. I can do this. I won't lose." He took her face in his hands and forced her to look at him. Her eyes held his despite shimmering with tears. "I'm here. Whenever you need me."
"I need you." She whispered, more to herself than to him. She held her breath for a moment before leaning forward and kissing him. She sat back and stared at him. The rain had picked up and was now pounding on the window pane. A low rumble of thunder bellowed somewhere over the waves. The lights in the room flickered and went out leaving just the moon to illuminate the space between them.
"What am I doing?" Luna rose from the bed and pushed past him making for the door.
"Luna please don't go." Harry could still taste her tears from the kiss but could not ignore the pull he felt no longer. She consumed his mind and all he wanted was one more day spent with her. He couldn't face her walking out this room and never seeing her again.
"Harry it's too late for us. What could this be now other than a complete mess." She looked torn, her hand on the door handle but she made no move to open it. "I need to be the one to end this and I need to do it now, otherwise I never will." She wrenched open the door and exited leaving Harry knelt of the floor facing the closing door, staring at the place she had just stood.
That was it. He felt devastated. He knew it was never likely to happen between them but never thought that this would be how it would end, incomplete and hollow. He sat on the bed staring at the wall opposite. With all that had happened with Ginny he'd had to put his feelings for Luna to one side for so long and now that it was over he could think of nothing else.
Another knock came at the door. He didn't feel like talking to anyone else but dragged himself up and walked across the floor to the door, opening it slowly.
"Sorry I just..." Luna stood in the open doorway. She was pulling at her sleeve and looking at the floor. "I just needed to..." she didn't finish her sentence and instead launched herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him fiercely. Harry stepped back and let the door close behind them. He took her face in his hands and pushed her back against the closed door letting his hands fall to her waist.
This kiss was different to the last. There was no hint hesitation, no tears and no guilt. A product of pure impulse. Thoughts of Voldermort, Horcruxes and bank heists fled Harry's mind leaving nothing but the thrill and joy of having Luna Lovegood's lips on his.
They stumbled sideways over the rug and fell onto the bed, knocking over the stack of Hermione's old textbooks that they'd been using to plan the raid on Gringotts.
"Shhh." Luna grinned as she clambered on top of Harry and sitting up.
Her hair had fallen down and long wet strands ran across her eyes. Her cheeks were flushed red and her eyes were narrowed onto his face, with a look Harry had never witnessed from Luna before. It charged a bolt of electricity in his chest, giving fire to his blood.
He leaned up and kissed her again, pulling her towards him. The rain continued to beat a tattoo on the wall of the cottage. As most its inhabitants slept on through the storm Harry and Luna met the late hours with enough passion to match the thunderous waves outside.
The sunlight was harsh against Harry's eyes. He held his arm out to obstruct its glare. The sound of seagulls could be heard outside the windows, the calm lapping of the waves drifting into the bedroom. He turned over expecting to find Luna's face staring back at him but only a vacant space greeted him. He sat up and stared bleary eyed across the room. It was empty. There was no sign that Luna had been here at all.
Thinking she must have left early for breakfast he got up and pulled on a pair of jeans and a shirt. Maybe she didn't want to come across anyone on the landing and be seen leaving his room. He stood at the window, his mind returning to last night and a smile ran across his face.
"Harry?" Ron's voice called from the other side of the door. "Bill's made us breakfast if you fancy some."
"Coming." Harry called back.
"Mind you with Bill's cooking you're taking your life in your hands." Ron's voice disappeared down the stairs.
Ron's morning call instantly brought his mind back onto Ginny and Harry felt the knot in his stomach tighten. They weren't together but it didn't stop him from feeling a strong sense of guilt as he join the others in the kitchen.
"Morning." Bill greeted, busy frying up a couple of eggs.
"Mphring." Ron mumbled between mouthfuls of toast.
Hermione was sat at the table but said nothing, she merely smiled weakly and nodded as he entered. Harry scanned the room and noting the lack of a certain Miss Luna Lovegood turned to Hermione.
"Where's Luna?" He asked trying to keep his tone casual.
"She's gone." Hermione said shortly, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
"Gone?" Harry replied failing to mask the shock in his voice.
"She gone to meet up with her father. She said they need to talk." Hermione swapped her stoney expression for one of concern. "She'll be alright." She added looking at Harry as if this statement was meant only for him.
"Y-yeah. Sure she will." Harry felt a heavy stone of worry drop into his stomach. "Did she say anything?" He asked hopefully.
"No. Just that she'd wanted us to be careful and that she'd be ready to help whenever we needed her."
Harry couldn't deny this was not the farewell he had hoped for. Luna knew that the three of them were leaving for Gringotts today and yet this was how she wanted to leave things between them. He felt a strange sense of loss wash over him. Didn't she care that they may never meet again? After everything... this was it?
"Harry can I have a word?" Hermione asked, getting up and motioning to the back door of the kitchen.
"Yeah. Sure." Harry gave her a questioning look and followed her out the door.
The wind was mild and the sun left a warm glow in its wake. Hermione stepped onto the decking that lead to the beach and turned to face him.
"Harry what's going on?" She asked, keeping her eyes trained on her friend.
"What'd you mean?" He asked shoving his hands deep into his jean pockets.
"You know perfectly well what." She frowned. "Luna didn't come back to our room last night. She said she was going to talk to you when she left."
Harry scratched his head absentmindedly and looked over her shoulder. "Yeah. She came to see me."
"And when she came back this morning she was all over the place. She wouldn't say where she'd been and the next thing I know she's getting ready to leave and go see her father."
Harry tried his best to look normal but couldn't seem to keep his voice as casual as he'd liked. "Did she say anything else?" He asked feeling hopeful.
"No." Hermione replied shortly.
"Oh." Harry felt sick. He had wanted to see her before they left. He'd wanted to spend time with her, talk things through.
"Harry?" Hermione prodded again.
Harry sighed and felt his face leak into a red tint. "Alright, alright. Luna came over and sorta... spent the night." He stared defiantly at Hermione.
"In your room?"
"No I slept in the boat outside." He replied sarcastically.
Hermione remained silent for a moment letting the thought work around her head. "And..."
"Yes... we did."
"Don't give me that. What about Ginny."
"Hermione we aren't together." He replied defensively but feeling the stabs of guilt all the same.
"He wasn't there."
"This isn't a joke Harry. Does Ron know?"
"Well don't tell him."
"Well obviously I'm not going to... yet."
"What do you mean yet? Why would you ever..."
"Because he's my friend and Ginny's his sister. It'd be better coming from me than it would some other way. I just need to find out how Luna feels first."
"So you're serious about her then?" Hermione asked, a warmer tone coating her words.
"Well I really like her and I think she likes me, a bit at least." He added feeling uncertain.
"Well I would hope she does all things considered." Hermione said briskly looking a strange mix of disapproving and amused.
"But Harry... you're timings not great is it? I mean..."
"Not you too." Harry moaned rolling his eyes. "Look I might never see her again but if I do I'll sort it out then."
Hermione cast him a concerned look but smiled. "I really didn't expect this." She muttered to herself.
"You're telling me." said Harry with a chuckle.
"Oi! Are you two coming? Griphook said he's ready and you haven't even taken the Polyjuice yet." Ron stood at the door calling out to them.
Hermione waved her arm at him and walked past Harry towards the house. "Really Harry don't tell Ron. I'm not sure how he'll take it."
"Probably punch me on the nose and I'd deserve it too."
They both made for the house. Harry glanced up at the window belonging to the room he and Luna had shared last night. He wondered where Luna was this very moment and if she was thinking of him too.